(Main photo image credit: WTAE.com)
Our country appears to be hypocritical when it comes to restorative justice.
According to the Pennsylvania Juvenile Court Judges Commission, restorative justice is “a form of rehabilitation that gives priority to repairing the harm done to victims and communities, and offender accountability is defined in terms of assuming responsibility and taking action to repair harm.”
Many of the people who are caught up in the prison industrial complex are sent to jail to rehabilitate and sent back into society. Some of those people end up back in jail because the ex-con stigma becomes overwhelming or that life is irresistible. Some folks still continue to push a narrative that says people who have criminal records have no credibility because they were once criminals themselves.
Others believe that an ex-con is the last person who should be back on the street, or in Michael Vick’s case, be a backup quarterback to a star player who was once suspended six games by the NFL for an alleged rape charge.
On Tuesday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers signed Michael Vick and many fans, including animal rights activists, aren't happy about it:
I have been a Steelers fan all my life until today. That won't change until Vick is gone. I'm so disappointed. Thought you had standards.— Greg Carl (@GregCarl5) August 26, 2015
Saw someone wearing a Michael Vick jersey today in my office building today, stayed far, far away from that duuuuude— joe erbentraut (@robojojo) August 24, 2015
If you want to think critically about something that continues to be an issue for so many people, ask yourself these questions: Where were these people when Trayvon Martin, Freddie Gray, Mike Brown, Jordan Davis, Rekia Boyd or Eric Garner needed the outrage? What about when that Texas police officer slammed a child onto the ground at a pool party? Or when Caitlyn Jenner, honored with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the ESPYs, killed someone with her car? Or when Ben Roethlisberger got in trouble, more than once? While Big Ben eventually beat the charges, the NFL wouldn’t have suspended him unless they felt he was in wrong at some point.
History tells us that dogs are treated better than black people in most cases. They often have more rights and outright support than we do. After all, Vick’s dogs got more justice than the aforementioned Black victims combined.
Like it or not, it's true.
Animal rights activists may not want to admit this but Vick was exactly what they needed, a face to put on their movement. Someone they could point their fingers at. A symbol to rally around. In fact, I’d argue that PETA got more out of Vick being involved than anyone else, including fur wearing celebrities they targeted with paint cans.
They found their convenient boogeyman.
An advocacy group like PETA wants Vick to be shamed for the rest of his life while the Humane Society of America (HSUS) wanted him to make a difference.
The Humane Society knew that Vick held a tremendous amount of cache in neighborhoods where dogfighting was prevalent. They knew that people would listen more so to Vick than they would to a hipster who be deemed insignificant by, or would otherwise be afraid to interact with, people in the inner city.
Back in 2009, the Humane Society asked Vick if he would interested in working with their anti-dogfighting campaign.
Wayne Pacelle, the Humane Society’s president, believed that Vick’s story resonates despite how polarizing he involvement could be.
“He said he grew up with dogfighting as a boy, and that he never sufficiently questioned it as he grew into manhood…,” Pacelle told the L.A. Times. “And he said he wants to show the American public that he is committed to helping combat this problem.”
I wonder if these people know that Fortune 500 companies, non-profit agencies and professional sports leagues, among other entities, often bring in guest speakers with criminal records. See Jordan Belfort, Frank Abagnale and Piper Kerman.
This type of education is nothing new.
Last year, I wrote a feature article on a Chicago man named Marcus Williams. Marcus spent most of his adult life behind bars for various offenses such as drug possession and burglary. These days, Williams gives advice to homeowners on the lecture circuit on how to burglar proof their homes. He does this through the Safer Foundation, a nonprofit that helps ex-cons transition themselves back into society. Williams knew he messed up and there’s people out there who will never let him forget it.
See, the thing is that no one is disputing that Vick shouldn’t have gone to jail. What he did was heinous and reprehensible and he deserved the punishment he received. However, people seem to forget that the Vick served the longest sentence in history for a crime related to dogfighting, along with losing an NFL contract worth over $100 million and potentially lucrative sponsorship deals. They also conveniently seem to forget that he spoke on Capitol Hill to strengthen laws against dogfighting.
Vick has never been shy about admitting his guilt. He's never denied responsibility for his actions when he gets flooded with questions the minute he signs with a team. "Pretty much, the reaction in the beginning is kind of crazy in some regards -- not all the time and not everywhere," Vick said. "You've still got people who feel a certain type of way about what happened, but I think you've got to look at the right I'm trying to do. You can't take back what happened in the past. Everybody's different when they're 20 than when they're 35."
To all of you out there who are blaming the Steelers or emphatically stating that you'll stop attending Steelers' games now that Vick is on the team, ask yourself this; do you know the names of your senators and state reps in Washington? After all, they are the ones who make the laws we have to abide by.
Your “outrage” is fraudulent, misplaced and quite frankly, dated. No.2 in black and yellow is on the team and he's paid for his crime.
Time to find a new symbol for a rallying cry.
(Photo credit: WTAE.com)